Turkish Information Office
Level 3, Room 17
428 George Street
Sydney, NSW 2000
Turkish Tourism Office
360 Albert Street
Ottawa, ON K1R 7X7
Turkish Embassy Information Office
1 Ben Yehuda
63801 Tel Aviv
or 517 1731
Turkish Embassy Information Counsellor’s Office
London W1J 9EJ
Office of the Turkish Tourism Information Attache
821 United Nations Plaza
New York, NY 10017
Turkish Tourism Information Office
2525 Mass. Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20006
Currency & Credit Cards
used in Turkey is the Lira (also frequently called New Turkish Lira or YTL). It is fully convertible and therefore there
is no black market exchange. There is
no limit on the amount of foreign currency that can be brought into Turkey. Travelers cheques or cash in US dollars,
Euros and British Pounds can be easily changed throughout Turkey. Other currencies can be less easily changed.
MasterCard are widely accepted in hotels, major stores and most tourist
areas. American Express and Diners Club
are not widely accepted. Credit cards
are less accepted in rural areas, however most any credit card can be used at a
local bank’s ATM or cash point to draw cash.
Weekends & Holidays
is the same as in other Western countries, i.e. Saturday and Sunday.
historic sites and shopping opportunities are unaffected during
each of Turkey’s public holidays: 1
January, 23 April, 19 May, 30 August, the afternoon of 28 October, and 29
October. Furthermore, Ekstra Tourism
will be open and available for assistance during any public holiday if there is
a group arriving to Turkey and/or on tour in the country.
Each year there
are two religious holidays in Turkey.
These last 3.5 days and 4.5 days and occur at different times each
year. All museums and historic sites
are unaffected except for the first morning of each religious
holiday. Shopping opportunities will be
limited because most stores will be closed.
However, Ekstra Tourism will be open and available for assistance during
any religious holiday if there is a group arriving to Turkey or on tour in the
visiting Turkey for the first time are surprised not only by the variety of
things on sale but also by the number of choices available in each
category. Turkey is justly well known
for its carpets, flat weave rugs and ceramics/tiles. But the quality, variety and value of its gold, silver or amber
jewelry, leather goods, silks, crafted metalwork, and inlaid wooden items may
very well amaze you.
The Minorities: Kurds, Arabs, etc.
Of the approximately
70 million people who live in Turkey, the largest minority group is the Kurds
which make up about 10% of the total population. Most Kurds live in eastern Turkey but a sizable number live in
Istanbul. Turkey’s small ethnic Arab
population is found mostly in the southeast part of the country. In the Black Sea region of Turkey there are
two groups, Laz and Hemshin, that are well known in Turkey and have
inter-married with ethnic Turks for a long time. Except for a small minority, members of the above groups are
Moslem. The other ethnic groups
together make up about 1% of the total population. Most of them are Orthodox (Armenian, Greek, Syrian) as well as a
group of Sephardic Jews. It must be
said that each group has its own language, a long history and traditions.
European or Middle Eastern?
speaking, Turkey is on both the European and Asian continents. Some 97% of the country is in Asia and is
called Anatolia. The old name,
Asia Minor, is from the ancient Romans and its use is not in favor. The other part of Turkey is in a part of
Europe called Thrace. Thrace is
a region that extends into Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey. Istanbul is the only city that is located on
much of history this region was Middle Eastern. However, the present culture has very little resemblance to what
was. Efforts to modernize along Western
lines started well over a hundred years ago and were greatly accelerated
starting in the 1920’s. The result has
been a modern and dynamic Turkey that is decidedly Western.
Of course not
all past cultural practices have been erased.
Rather, some have evolved and to varying degrees been incorporated into
modern Turkey. This is particularly
true regarding expressions of respect and behavior toward elders.
events and frequent news reporting from the Middle East, many people
automatically think that Turkey is no different from the Arab countries. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The differences are numerous and striking.
The history of
Turkey is truly immense. Archeologists
have examined sites thought to be the oldest human communities. The western world’s first historian (Strabo)
grew up and traveled in Anatolia. The
same is true for the founder of western literature (Homer). Several sites in Turkey are specifically
mentioned in the Old & New Testaments.
Even Caesar was here when he said,
“Veni. Vedi. Vici.”
If you are
interested in history, then you’re likely to enjoy what Turkey has to
offer. Even a partial list of past
cultures & empires is impressive:
The Hittites, Assyrians, Phrygians, Urartians, Lydians, Hellenic City
States, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk, Ottoman.
Remarkably, Turkey has more ancient Greek ruins (and in better
condition) than Greece. The same is
also true for ancient Roman ruins compared to Italy!
It must be
mentioned that Turkey is unusually rich in religious history with several
places mentioned in both the Old Testament and New Testament. People interested in religion-based tours
are encouraged to review our tour programs.
archeology in Turkey will always be on-going because there is so much to be
done. Also on-going are the
controversies stemming from the initial excavations at Troy and Pergamum. Such controversies are unlikely to be
repeated as excavations are carefully controlled and monitored.
archeological sites (either previously excavated or currently undergoing
excavation) can be arranged. Several of
our standard tours are to archeological sites.
Please contact our head office in Istanbul if you wish us to make a
special archeology program.
PLEASE NOTE: It can’t be stressed enough that it is illegal in Turkey to buy,
sell, possess or export antiquities.
This is a particularly sensitive subject and it must not be taken
lightly. There is however a procedure
that allows for purchasing and exporting valuable items provided they are not
older than several centuries. Of course
excellent fakes are exempt!
Other than a few
foreign words, most people in Turkey speak only Turkish. However, when necessary, a person who
understands and speaks English can be easily located. Also English is routinely spoken in the hotels and tourist areas.
In Turkey there are approximately as
many German speakers as there are English speakers. French is less frequently spoken. While visiting, you will never have much difficulty being
understood as long as you have a little patience and humor. Turkey has been the world’s “crossroads” for
a very long time and so communication difficulties are usually minor and
momentary. Some people have asked why
many people in Turkey are not bilingual.
This is a good question! The
responses are varied but it may stem from the fact that Turkey was never a
colony of a western European country.
originated in Mongolia. In one form or
another it is spoken from the Balkans to western China. It has an amazingly regular grammar. Modern Turkish is entirely phonetic and uses
Latin-based letters that certainly makes words more recognizable for most
foreigners. It is also fairly rich in
nouns of French or English origin.
However, Turkish has a very unusual grammar and is considered a
difficult language to master. Although
the words may sound strange to you, try to learn and use a few of them. The Turks will genuinely appreciate your
effort and very likely you’ll feel good when you see their positive reactions.
People in Turkey
genuinely appreciate it when visitors try to speak a few words in Turkish. They will not be shy about showing their
surprise and happiness to share a few pleasant words in Turkish with you. Here are a few words to help you get
Turkey is a
Moslem country but most Turks are moderate in every meaning of the word. If you come to Turkey expecting to see
widespread public display of devotion to Allah, you will be disappointed. Starting early each morning the call to
prayer is broadcast five times a day from each mosque’s loudspeakers but most
people pay no attention. This is not to
say there are no religiously conservative people in Turkey. There are, but they probably don’t fit the
image that may appear on your TV evening news.
Mosques can be
visited whether or not the visitors follow Islam. All people follow norms when they visit their places of
worship. If you have a place of
worship, you probably have a good idea what kind of dress and behavior are
appropriate for each person whether or not he/she is a visitor.
You are encouraged
to visit some of the mosques in Turkey.
It has more mosques than any other country and several of them are truly
exceptional. When visiting a mosque,
please keep the following in mind:
- Everybody must remove their shoes
or sandals before entering. If the
entrance is carpeted, then remove the shoes before stepping on the
carpet. You can carry your shoes
or put them on a shelf like everyone else.
- Everybody must cover their
shoulders and legs. Long skirts
are fine (for women that is!).
- Women are expected to cover their
hair. This doesn’t mean every
strand of hair must be covered!
This is typically and easily done with a scarf. If you don’t have a scarf, one will
probably be quickly lent to you.
- Understandably, if people are
praying, they may feel uncomfortable if you are talking above a whisper,
photographing or walking in front of them.
- Except for mosques which are
frequently visited by tourists, it is more respectful not to visit shortly
after a call to prayer. On the
other hand, if you want to visit a particular mosque that is normally not
open all the time, it’s best to time your visit at the call to prayer so
as to have time for a brief visit.
Turkey’s churches are usually easy during Sundays and holidays. A visit any other time is possible but it
maybe necessary to make an appointment or to search for someone to open the
church. Appointments will be made if
your tour program includes church visits.
Turkey’s synagogues require an appointment.
Appointments will be made if your tour program includes synagogue
Alcohol & drugs
is widely available and drunk by many Turks, public drunkenness is rare and
frowned upon. It is viewed as a lack of
self-control or self-respect.
than medicines purchased from a pharmacy/chemist) are to be avoided under all
circumstances. This can’t be stressed
enough as it is a very serious and sensitive subject. Though unlikely, should you be approached by a drug dealer, just
say no in a loud voice and you can be sure he will disappear quick enough. There are simply no compromises on this
Turks are a very
friendly and engaging people. They are
also very proud of their country & culture as well as the principles of the
Turkish Republic & its founder, Atatürk.
Much to their credit they are easy going and quick to forgive if something
unpleasant was in fact a simple misunderstanding. They are very tolerant of foreigners and their different
behaviors but they will appreciate your efforts to conform somewhat to their
With that said,
Turks also feel they have been wrongly portrayed on many occasions and some
people are very sensitive about this.
The issues are invariably detailed and have been on-going, some for a
very long time. Inquiry into such
issues is probably best done by reading books (preferably alone) and leaving it
at that. If you should find yourself
involved in a discussion concerning a sensitive subject, unless your diplomatic
skills are excellent, you may find it best to just excuse yourself or at the
very least confess ignorance and let the other person(s) air their views and
then discreetly change the subject.
that you should be careful about:
- Events relating to the Armenian
people during the time of the Ottoman Empire.
- Political subjects related to the
European Union, Cyprus and the PKK.
- Anything that may be understood as
negative about or disrespectful to:
The Turkish Republic, its flag and
Atatürk who was instrumental in the formation of the republic.
To repeat yet
again: In Turkey never buy, sell or
transport any antiquity or illegal drug.
approximately twelve million people, is by far Turkey’s largest city. It is also one the world’s most beautiful
and affordable large cities. Being
located on the Bosphorus, the Golden Horn and the Marmara Sea, Istanbul has an
extensive scenic coast. It was also
the capital city of two of history’s great empires: The Byzantine and Ottoman.
Istanbul is a
gem for tourists. It can be difficult
to decide which sites to visit because there are so many choices. For more information of this subject, please
review our tour programs. If you want
to make your own program, then our “Visitor-designed Tours of Istanbul” is just
what you need. Although one or two day
tours of Istanbul are routine, it really isn’t enough time to properly visit
the city. Many visitors say 3-5 days
Istanbul is a very large city, it is definitely less stressful than other major
cities and it certainly is not dangerous.
We hope you will see for yourself.
Because of the city’s fame and history, some people might use the name
Constantinople. This name is historical
and should be used only when referring to the time of the Byzantine Empire.
This region is
located in central Turkey. It is easily
reached by plane from Istanbul or by car from Ankara. The region is mentioned in the Bible and it has a very unusual landscape
characterized by large conical structures (humorously called fairy chimneys) of
soft stone. The soft stone was easy for
early residents to hollow out the conical structures and ravine faces for their
homes, churches and animals. Because
hostile forces occasionally swept through, the residents made their structures
defensive as well as hidden. The best
examples of this are the extensive underground cities that are not apparent
from above ground.
For a long time
Cappadocia had a large Christian population.
This is apparent in the number of old churches and monastery
complexes. The region also has a number
of Greek houses dating from the Ottoman period. Cappadocia also has unusual wines due to their ancient storage
our programs for some of the excellent tour possibilities. Cappadocia also offers opportunities for
trekking. For trekking or other special interest programs, please contact our head office in Istanbul.
Interior of Anatolia
part is properly called Anatolia rather than by its ancient Roman name of Asia
Minor. The interior of this region is a
high, immense and undulating plateau that is surrounded by relatively high
coastal mountains. In as sense it is
like a fortress which is a role it has played many times. It is fairly dry and generally has a low
humidity and cool nights. Summers are
sunny and can be hot but this should not discourage visitors because even
during the hottest days it is not difficult to cool off.
Anatolia is big
and it has a wealth of interesting things to offer the visitor:
- Cappadocia with its unusual
geological formations and history.
- The capital city of Ankara with
its outstanding Museum of Anatolian Civilizations.
- The archeological site of Catal
Hoyuk is considered to be the world’s earliest established community to be
- Sites from some of the oldest
empires as well as the more recent ones.
- Sites of religious significance.
- Picturesque towns such as
Safranbolu with its large collection of Ottoman houses.
- Relics of the ancient Silk Road
such as caravanserais, hans and covered markets.
our programs for some of the tour possibilities. For special interest programs, please contact our head office in
region is the area between the Aegean Sea’s long coastline and the interior
plateau. This region is characterized
by sea, scenic views, a Mediterranean climate and it has many outstanding
Hellenistic & Roman era ruins.
There is no better place in the world for visiting the best-preserved
ancient sites including Ephesus, Pergamum, Afrodisias, Priene, Didyma and
Miletus. Remarkably, Turkey has more
ancient Greek ruins (and in better condition) than Greece. The same is also true for ancient Roman
ruins compared to Italy!
A number of
sites in this region are also of significant religious importance such as the
Seven Churches and the Ecumenical Councils held at Ephesus and Nicaea (modern
Please review our programs for some
excellent tours of classical ruins, sites of religious significance as well as
for relaxing & scenic cruises. For
special interest programs, please contact our head office in Istanbul.
Mediterranean region is long, rugged and scenic. There are many well-preserved classical ruins from a variety of
city states such as Olympos, Termessos, Perge, Aspendos, Side, Tios and
Xanthos. Along the coast there are
number of cruise possibilities to view the region’s scenery and some ancient
sites. The ancient city of Antioch,
important for its religious history, is at the eastern end of Turkey’s
our programs for tours into Turkey’s Mediterranean region and for relaxing
& scenic cruises. For special
interest programs, please contact our head office in Istanbul.
Sea region is the least visited region.
It never fails to surprise visitors because it is exceptionally green
and lush. The eastern part of the
region has the dramatic, spruce-covered Kackar Mountains with their alpine
meadows that come alive each summer with the return of the Laz who are one of
Turkey’s most colorful groups. They are
well known in Turkey for their cheerfulness, colorful costumes, joyous dances
(everyone is welcome to join in!) and unique music.
Almost all sites
of historical or religious interest are also located in the eastern part of
this region. Among these are a number
of interesting ancient Georgian churches and a former Greek Orthodox monastery
that is perched on a surprisingly high cliff.
This region has
the greatest trekking and white water rafting possibilities for all of
Turkey. But because it is the least
visited region, it has only a limited choice of facilities and services. We currently have no programs for this
region but we can always develop special interest programs. Please contact our head office in Istanbul.
Eastern & Southeastern Turkey
This is a large, varied and fairly dry
region. It’s character and appearance
is more “Middle Eastern”. It has the
Tigris & Euphrates Rivers, several sites of religious significance, functioning
Syrian Orthodox monasteries as well as some exceptional ancient ruins.
Visits to and
from this region require domestic flights because it is far from Turkey’s major
cities. Also, because it is a big
region, sometimes a long ride is necessary between sites though the scenery
between and at the sites is interesting.
Usually visitors to eastern Turkey have already toured one or more
regions of Turkey on a previous trip, although this is by no means a
requirement! The region is not
frequently visited and it is conservative (best to keep shoulders and legs
covered). Parts of eastern Turkey
experienced a period of civil unrest that was frequently reported (and
sometimes misreported). The unrest has
passed. The region is now experiencing
significant improvements, particularly because of an enormous broad-based
development project called GAP. It is
safe to travel in eastern Turkey and no doubt it would be a very rewarding and
our programs for some of the tour possibilities. For special interest programs, please contact our head office in
The Turkish Republic:
Atatürk was instrumental in the formation of the Turkish Republic. He was a career soldier who distinguished
himself during World War I defending the Dardanelles. After the war he simultaneously led a successful resistance
against foreign occupation forces and laid the groundwork for the creation of
Not long after
the creation of the republic, Atatürk resigned from his military position to
pursue what turned out to be an impressive career as a statesman. He was instrumental in rapidly accelerating
the “westernization” of Turkey. His
numerous achievements were remarkable and far-reaching. His history and accomplishments are recorded
in many books and make for interesting reading.
Atatürk is a
very important figure in modern Turkey.
His image is in every office.
Turks are very reverent of Atatürk and the things he stood for. He is frequently quoted. One quote in particular was very important
in his time and continues to be so, ‘Peace at home and peace in the world.’
(drinking water & immunizations)
The tap water in
Turkey’s cities is chlorinated. However
most people choose to drink bottled water instead because the tap water may
have a taste. Several brands of bottled
water are widely available and inexpensive.
Please don’t worry about using tap water to brush your teeth or to rinse
a bunch of grapes, etc.
are required for traveling to or within Turkey. However, those individuals who wish to lower their risk of
contracting certain diseases are advised to discuss immunizations with their
doctor as there may be issues related to an individual’s age, side effects,
pregnancy and allergies.